My dog Max has some issues with other dogs due to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. He is fine when dogs enter our home. He is fine when he goes to someone’s house and they have a dog. The issue is when we are walking. As a result, I am mindful of when we walk and where we walk because I do not want Max to get fearful and agitated.
It does not matter how prepared I am, nor how many alternative routes I can travel. At times, it does not matter and something will happen that is out of my control. This morning was one of those moments. A lady was driving down the road above the speed limit. She quickly veered over to the wrong side of the road, parking illegally right in front of us. She was holding a small dog and had the window wide open with the dog hanging out and actively barking. Right before Max was his biggest fear. He started to react. He was all frazzled.
There is no guarantee that you will have smooth travels throughout your day. There could be an interruption. Something could happen that would pull you off course. You may have spent time in preparation but you are knocked off of your feet. What then? Stop. Breathe. Remind yourself of the promises of God. Remember you are not alone (Deuteronomy 31:6, Hebrews 13:5). He is with you (Psalm 46:1). It may feel like everything is caving in, but in fact, God is preparing the way using all of the good and bad in your life to position you for something great. You were made for great things (John 14:12). You were made to give God glory (Isaiah 43:7). Change your focus and move forward (Philippians 4:8-9). You were made for so much more!
I often get my dog Max soup bones. I cook them, allow them to cool, and then he has enjoyment that lasts for a long time. He has bones all over the house. We often have to collect them and put them back in his bin of toys. Sometimes he takes them and places them right in our pathway. The other night, I went to walk to the stairway so I could go downstairs and start my day. The problem was Max grabbed a bone after I had gone to bed and stuck it in the middle of my pathway. I walked right by the bone and the end of the bone cut my foot.
I would have seen the bone if I had turned on the lights, but I did not want to wake up my children. The problem is that things hide in the darkness. We cannot always see what is lingering about when it is dark. Sometimes we do things that we should not and we like to keep people in the dark. Darkness is usually linked with evil. But when there is darkness, there’s always some light—even if it is only a flicker of light.
I love Zechariah’s song. Consider this “morning light from heaven.” He noted that it would “break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness” (NLT). There are still so many sitting in the dark—so many who need to see the Light. Today, be a beacon of Light. Shine the Light. This world can be a dark, dark place; however, with each one of us shining Light, we are able to pour out the grace and mercy that God has poured out to us.
“Because of God’s tender mercy, the morning light from heaven is about to break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, and to guide us to the path of peace.” – Luke 1:78-79 [NLT]
When I took Max for a walk, I noticed a cicada sitting on the sidewalk. I saw Max looking in the direction of the cicada and told him to let it alone. Max decided instead to look more closely at the cicada. The cicada made the familiar noise it is known for and Max jumped in the air in fear.
Max did not listen to me though I told him not to look further. I told him it was bad. He did not listen. Instead, he continued to look at the cicada and got even closer to it, allowing it to touch and frighten him. This reminded me of how we find ourselves not listening to God’s Word and the Spirit’s promptings, and instead we decide to continue down a path we were not supposed to travel. We do not realize the harm until we are up against the cicada.
Today consider what God is saying to you and trust Him when He is telling you not to do something. God is not watching to stop us from having joy and happiness in life. He wants us to have joy and happiness and so much more. He is not trying to prohibit us but to enable us.
“God’s way is perfect. All the LORD’s promises prove true. He is a shield for all who look to him for protection.” – Psalm 18:30 [NLT]
When I was walking my dog this morning, there were tons of ants gathering together on the sidewalk. My dog Max decided to walk around the ants in an awkward way to be sure to avoid them all. It was quite humorous to see a 75 pound dog trying to avoid the tiny ants, but there is great strength in numbers.
Each of those ants is important. Each one added to the number and helped to make Max feel the need to avoid them. Each one played an important role. It is the same way with people. Each person is important. Each person has an important role to play. Sometimes we feel like we like a tiny ant, like we cannot make a difference or that what we are doing does not matter. Do not let yourself listen to those lies.
You are important. You are special. You are loved. And YOU are called to do great things. The biggest problem is that we think of ourselves as a little ant rather than as one of many ants—a large group of ants. We were created as communal beings and we are to be part of a community—one body—the body of Christ. You are not an ant. You are a child of God, a member of the Kingdom of God. And you, my friend, can do great things—great things through Christ.
“I tell you the truth, anyone who believes in me will do the same works I have done, and even greater works, because I am going to be with the Father.” – John 14:12 [NLT]
My neighbor recently got a dog who always wants to leave his designated area to come say hello to my dog. Each day he tries to walk off his master’s porch, walk down the pavement, and join Max. Since he was unable to find any success choosing the way of the stairs, he decided to sneak around another way. When Max and I approached, his master looked for his puppy in the usual area; however, he wasn’t there. He was already at some bushes making his way toward Max from another route.
We often think we can take another way to get to a destination. We have shortcuts and back roads. There are times when we can skip steps and save time. But when it comes to our relationship with God, there are no back roads, no shortcuts; there is no way to skip any steps.
I was reminded of John 10:1 when I saw the dog sneak around the gate. In this verse, Jesus says, “I tell you the truth, anyone who sneaks over the wall of a sheepfold, rather than going through the gate, must surely be a thief and a robber!” There is only one way to the Father and that is through Jesus, and there is only one way to receive Eternal Life, only one way to have a relationship with God—through Jesus.
“Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’” – John 14:6 [NIV]
During the summer, I often give my dog Max some ice cubes. When we come inside from a walk, I give him one ice cube to munch on and I try to encourage him to drink his water as well. But first thing in the morning he does not want to accept the ice cube because he expects a bone. Every morning he gets a bone to help clean his teeth. He tosses the ice cube on the floor and sits in defiance waiting for me to give him his bone first. He is focused on getting what is better to him so he won’t budge.
At times we have our focus skewed and we have our eyes focused on something that isn’t actually better for us. Rather than taking the ice cube, we desire the bone. Our eyes light up when we see the bones in life, and we sometimes sacrifice the much needed ice cube for the bone. We do this in many areas of our life—with our family, with our jobs, with money and possessions, etc.
Today, ask God to help you with your focus. Ask Him what areas need adjusted. Seek His guidance and don’t just listen—follow.
“Let your eyes look straight ahead; fix your gaze directly before you. Give careful thought to the paths for your feet and be steadfast in all your ways.” – Proverbs 4:25-26 [NIV]
Today when I was walking my dog, he was charged by another dog. I was prepared for the situation; however, because the same dog owner allowed this to happen weeks ago. Last time, he had let his Golden Retriever run loose and the dog came and snapped at my dog. This time, he left his German Shepherd loose, and although there was no snapping, I was not a happy camper at the second episode of negligence.
In life we will meet a person who will do something that irritates us, that hurts us or something that is wrong. We will throw our hands in the air (or sometimes our fists) and demand change. We will get angry. We will say words (sometimes words that are not positive, life speaking words). We will be frustrated by these people who do not do what we want them to do; however, we cannot expect them to change and act as we wish. Nor can we expect someone to follow the commands of God.
I was mad at this man today. He has proven twice that he cannot handle his dogs. The first time I was upset. I was injured. My dog was frightened. It was not a good situation. This second time, though prepared for it, was just as bad. Even so, some people will not change. We can only control our reactions to a situation—not someone else. It is how you react to any given situation that says something about you. I know I do not always react as I should, but I also know that over the years, the Holy Spirit has helped me to react better to each given situation. Don’t let situations and circumstances control you. React with love.
“Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony.” Colossians 3:12-14 [NLT]
“Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies.” – Philippians 4:8-9 [MSG]
When the temperatures rise, my dog Max likes to be in the air conditioning. Though he comes down in the morning for his breakfast, bone, and a walk, he quickly persuades me to let him back upstairs with the kids because of the air conditioning. He wants to be where it feels good. He wants to be where he is comfortable.
We are told to focus on what is good, pure, and lovely. We should seek those things out, focus on those things, and keep ourselves from turning elsewhere. Sometimes we find ourselves losing our focus because other things catch our eyes. Perhaps the things that are good do not look to help us feel comfortable. Sometimes we are to stay away from what appears comfortable, stay focused on what is pure, and patiently wait for the true comfort that only God can give us.
Comfortable does not always mean it is right. Something that feels good to us may not be good in the eyes of God. Continue to focus on Him. Today, remember these words from Paul and trust God’s promise of peace. Oh, the peace that only He can bring.
“He will cover you with his feathers. He will shelter you with his wings. His faithful promises are your armor and protection.” – Psalm 91:4 [NLT]
When walking the dog, a cat came into view. My dog immediately got excited to “make friends” with the cat. I do not think that the cat was too eager for this friendship and she ran away. What struck me as funny was the fact that she ran and stopped beside her family’s dog and got herself comfortable beside the dog, as if the relax in her protection. She looked at peace lounging beside the dog. My dog noted the change of situation and kept on walking. It’s not so often that I see a cat lounging at peace beside a dog.
As the dog offered great protection to her family’s cat, so God offers us great protection. We are able to run to Him and rest in Him. We can be sure that when we are covered with His wings, we are safe—we are secure. Nothing can pluck us from His hands (John 10:27-28). The Bible tells us over and over again to fear not. Why? Because He is with us and He is in control (1 Corinthians 3:16, Proverbs 19:21). Because He loves us and He has promised us a hope and a future (John 3:16, Jeremiah 29:11).
Today may be one of the hardest days of your life—rest in Him. He will bring you comfort. He will bring you strength. He will provide you all that you need. He always does.
“God is our refuge and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble.” – Psalm 46:1 [NLT]